WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden has been supportive of Türkiye’s request for the renewal and modernization of its F-16 fighter jet fleet, the White House said Tuesday.
“We’ve been very clear about the F-16. That conversation about the F-16 and Turkey has been around for some time,” spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said at a press conference.
“We talked about this several months ago. So there’s really nothing new. The president has supported that effort,” she added.
Her comments were in response to a question that pointed out the criticisms of a group of Democratic lawmakers who opposed Biden’s remarks after his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
In a press conference on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid in late June, Biden said Washington “should sell” F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye, adding he was confident that the needed congressional approval would be obtained.
“We should sell the F-16 to Turkey. I said that in December, and my position hasn’t changed since then. It’s not in our interests not to sell them. We need congressional approval to get there, and I think we’ll get there,” he added.
A key Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, who visited Türkiye over the weekend, reiterated his backing for the Biden administration’s decision to sell F-16 fighter jets to Ankara.
Graham met with Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on July 2.
According to a statement by the Turkish Presidency, the two officials discussed US-Türkiye bilateral relations, the fight against terrorism, cooperation in the defense industry, the Russia-Ukraine war and Black Sea grain shipments as well as other regional issues.
Cooperation in the field of defense and making progress on the F-16 issue will serve the interests of the two countries, the statement said.
In a tweet after the meeting, Graham said he had a “very productive trip” to Türkiye, which, he stressed, is a “member of NATO and a valuable American ally.”
“While we have had a problematic relationship at times, it is imperative Turkey and the US take steps to strengthen the ties between our two nations,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I will do all in my power to support the Biden Administration’s decision to sell F-16s to the Turkish Air Force,” he said.
Graham added that the fighter jets will bolster the Turkish military, which is “most definitely in America’s national security interests.”
The Turkish government requested the F-16s and modernization kits in October 2021. The $6 billion deal would include the sale of 40 newly built F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits for 80 F-16 C/D models that the Turkish Air Force has in its inventory.